After three blowouts of teams that would struggle against the top high school teams in the nation, the Jayhawk football team survived a scare
at home Saturday against a talented and underrated Southern Mississippi club.
At 4-0, the 'Hawks are ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top-25 poll and only Michigan (24) is undefeated and ranked lower than than KU. No surprises here, especially considering the teams KU played in the first three weeks. A top-10 ranking will not happen unless Kansas is able to defeat Oklahoma Oct. 24 in Lawrence. However, wins against Iowa St. and Colorado must come first if the high hope of winning the Big XII North is going to happen.
The Cyclones and Buffaloes will be easy wins you say? However, a closer look goes to show that may not be the case. Take for example, ISU's 21-0 nothing first-half lead in Ames, Iowa, last year before the 'Clones imploded. Also, during the 2007 Orange Bowl run, KU won only 19-14 in Boulder, Colo. -- the same year the 'Hawks hung 76 on Nebraska. This year's game against Colorado is back in Boulder, and any KU fans not nervous for that game are also called liars.
Sure, saying Colorado is bad is like saying Ben Stiller's character in "There's Something About Mary" had a problem with his zipper
, but KU's only road victory a year ago was in Ames.
So if KU is to win the North title, there can't be any hiccups along the way. Whether they are playing at home or the road cannot matter. The 'Hawks have to be playing their A-game each week. Head coach Mark Mangino has this weekend off to prepare for the conference season and their title run. If that is to happen, the Jayhawk must have these five things happen first:
(1) Jake Sharp Must Get Healthy
The Salina senior had 266 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in his first two games before getting injured. Yes, true freshman Toben Opurum has filled in nicely, but without Sharp, teams in the Big XII will begin to key in on Todd Reesing and force him to throw too many passes like last season.
In 2007, the combination of Thunder (Brandon McAnderson) and Lightning (Sharp) made for one of the most dangerous rushing combos in the country. Bottom line: no Sharp, no title.
(2) Opurum Must Continue to Play Well
As much as Sharp is a key to victory, he also needs a McAnderson in the huddle to give him a rest and defenses a different look -- especially if he is not 100 percent healthy.
Opurum has been a beast, leading the team in rushing yards (360) and touchdowns (6), while plowing over would-be-tacklers -- making McAnderson proud no doubt. If the duo continues to compliment the passing the game, KU could be hoisting more than one trophy by season's end.
(3) KU Must Beat Missouri
No one associated with KU wants to lose to Missouri even if the 'Hawks are 0-10 heading into the game. However, this year it could be for more than just pride. Both teams could be heading into the final game with just one loss each. If one has two losses, a tie would be broken with the head-to-head win. In other words, if the 'Hawks repeat the result of the 2007 Border War (settle down all your PCers) the North title is gone with the Kansas wind.
(4) The Defense Must Play Better
Sure, only three points given up looks good, but when it's against a FCS team, it's too much. Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis exposed the KU defense by completing 28-of-42 passes for 331 yards and three TDs. Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy are simultaneously licking their chops.
(5) Todd Reesing Must Stay Healthy
You probably wouldn't win the Daytona 500 without an engine would you?